By Devin Ochoa, Digital Marketing Manager
In today’s digital age, anyone with a website designed to draw awareness, engagement, and sales likely has a basic understanding of search engine optimization – or SEO – and what it can do for their website. Essentially, search engine optimization is the process of increasing the visibility of your website by optimizing your website’s content and code with relevant keywords so that search engines will help your site be found.
However, those who really want to invest in bringing traffic to their sites may also consider paid search advertising as another tool they can employ. As the name suggests, paid search involves the use of paid advertisements on search engines as a means of driving traffic to your website and influencing user behavior with regard to your brand or product.
But as a business owner or manager of your company’s website, how do you decide which digital strategy is best for you? Below we discuss both disciplines and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The Value of Organic SEO
Organic SEO refers to indexed web pages that appear on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, as a result of various algorithmic factors. One of the most important aspects of organic search engine optimization is that it is 100% free to use, meaning it does not rely on any financial investment from your end. As a result, organic SEO is the most cost-effective and reliable form of digital marketing in the long run.
In order to achieve the best results with organic SEO, you need to identify the most relevant keywords that are likely to generate the most traffic to your website. You then need to decide which keywords best fit your products or services and develop on-page content around them accordingly.
You can also optimize your website’s code by following basic best practices, such as including your keywords in the title and H2 tags, in the metadata, and in the URL of your page. This ultimately will help search engines examine your website and find relevant content that helps answer a user’s search query. Websites that use high-traffic keywords, high-quality on-page content, and have their site in good standing (i.e. fast site speed, no broken links, etc) have a better chance of ranking on the first page of a search engine.
This strategy also requires an ongoing use and employment of new content on the website that utilizes target keywords. Most websites use a blog for this purpose, but as a rule, content for each page on your website should also be updated from time to time to account for changes in algorithms (the rules and calculations search engines use to find information) and to ensure web crawlers see your site as dynamic, and not static.
The Sense (and Cents) Behind Paid Search Advertising
Paid search advertising – like organic SEO – makes use of relevant keywords, however, a budget is set to pay for those keywords so that your company’s website, brand or product show up at the top of search results.
These paid advertisements appear above or beside the organic search results on Google, enticing the user to click on the ad rather than the organic result. Though there are different kinds of ads–including text ads, shopping ads, and local search ads–these campaigns all set a fee for each click, which is known as a cost-per-click or cost-per-acquisition (CPC/CPA) model.
Paid search advertising is best used as a supplementary strategy to your organic SEO campaign. It can be used to gain extra exposure in competitive search engine results pages, like when your website isn’t ranking on the first page of Google, or when you’re looking to quickly boost traffic and sales. It can also be used as a short-term strategy to boost attention for a particular offering or draw visitors to a targeted landing page on your site.
Though this requires an additional investment, you can easily set the dollar amount or threshold you want to reach each day, in order to manage costs. You can use pay-per-click (PPC) ads to target long-tail keywords that are more specific, but less competitive, thus keeping the cost-per-click down.
You can also use PPC ads to target more broad or competitive keywords that you can’t rank well for organically. Keep in mind, however, that your cost-per-acquisition for high ranking keywords will be greater, so you will have to be careful how you target your spend. In general, a mix between long-tail keywords and competitive keywords is ideal for most campaigns.
Best of Both Worlds
While there are benefits of each strategy alone, it’s important to note that they aren’t without their disadvantages. The truth is that you can’t expect to achieve your digital goals with just one of these strategies alone. Both organic and paid search are relevant in helping you achieve the level of success you desire.
For instance, while you can use organic search engine optimization to attract long-term customers or maintain (and grow) your position with search, paid search can help you boost your traffic and sales in the short term. Organic SEO is also known for its “slow and steady race” to the top, but that also means it can take several months (if not years) before you start seeing results.
This could be a deal-breaker for businesses whose competitors have been in the marketplace longer, have bigger brand recognition, or are already reaping the benefits of paid advertisements. While a quicker return on your investment and a more immediate boost in traffic or sales is desirable, this often comes at the expense of a hefty paid search investment, while organic methods are free.
In addition, with either strategy alone, you’re leaving the success of your business in the hands of search engine algorithms. But what happens if Google decides to make a change that negatively affects your website’s ranking, or makes your paid ad disappear? By investing in both organic and paid search advertising, you can hedge against any sudden changes in the search engine landscape, while also optimizing your campaigns for long-term success.
In a best-of-both-worlds scenario, you can use organic search engine optimization to build your brand recognition and traffic over a long period of time. Then, when your traffic begins to plateau, or you need to raise awareness for a particular product, campaign or service, you can use paid search advertising to boost your traffic and sales in the short term.
Ultimately, choosing which strategy to pursue is largely a financial decision. However, it’s important to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of each before committing either way. Ultimately, we have found the best digital strategy is the one that works best for your business or industry, as there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution. But finding a way to smartly employ both organic and paid strategies for your website can go a long way in helping you achieve your business goals, and reaping the rewards of your digital investment over the long term. If you would like some help with paid search or SEO for your business feel free to contact us, and let our experts help increase traffic to your site!